St. Norbert College Receives Grant to Fund Olive Branch Initiative

The Cassandra Voss Center (CVC) at St. Norbert College recently received a $5,000 grant from Campus Compact’s Fund for Positive Engagement for the 2017-2018 academic year. The grant is meant to help the CVC in “piloting a new initiative called the Olive Branch Initiative, aiming to bring the community together to share stories from, and engage with, different perspectives.”

St. Norbert was selected from a pool of more than 300 grant applicants, making St. Norbert’s selection even more honorable. Applicants were assessed by the following criteria: “the project must engage with divergent or unfamiliar perspectives to foster empathy and understanding; the project must develop positive relationships across differences to lift up our common humanity; and the project must engage in collaborative problem-solving to strengthen social times and civic vitality.” Grant submissions we assessed by how well a project would address the challenge named by the institution and lead to positive change. Congrats to St. Norbert College!

To read more about St. Norbert’s recent grant, click here.

Living Our Values: Colleges Promote Fair Trade

As institutions inspired by faith, Catholic colleges and universities live their values in many ways, including through academic pursuits, business decisions, and student activities. One way Catholic colleges and universities reflect their mission to care for the poor and vulnerable throughout the world by protecting the rights of workers, upholding ethical economic practices and supporting sustainable environmental practices is through fair trade.

Fair trade is a designation placed on products to ensure that producers are paid a fair price for what they create by examining factors like price, labor conditions, sustainability, and community development. Carroll College and St. Norbert College are two examples of Catholic institutions that have successfully implemented different strategies to raise awareness for fair trade products and practices in creative ways.

Carroll College has promoted fair trade through academic courses, student life, and the Hunthausen Center for Peace and Justice. Fair trade principles and practices were introduced in the class “Theological Foundations,” part of Carroll’s core curriculum, as a case study during a unit on Catholic Social Teaching. Another course, “Market Research,” also examined the issue of fair trade through a research project on fair trade awareness in the community and on campus. Using research from this project, students from the Enactus student club, which focuses on developing business skills, designed a pocket-sized brochure on fair trade and Catholic Social Teaching, which also listed businesses in Helena selling fair trade products. More than 4,000 copies of the brochure were distributed across the Carroll and Helena communities. The student life department, with the Hunthausen Center, also sponsored a public fair trade market in the campus center where fair trade products were made available for purchase. Additionally, three “Fair Trade Friday” events featuring free samples of fair trade products and information on fair trade practices were held in the campus center, promoting greater awareness of the issue. These fair trade–focused projects were funded through the Global Solidarity Grant program, a collaborative program of ACCU and Catholic Relief Services that awards funding to Catholic colleges and universities to increase awareness of global injustice and expand student involvement in bringing about change. After signing a fair trade resolution, Carroll College became a Fair Trade certified university in 2016, the first university in Montana to be certified as such.

Another Global Solidarity Grant recipient, St. Norbert College, incorporated art into the discussion of fair trade. On exhibition in the Baer Gallery of the Bush Art Center was photographer Lisa Kristine’s work “Enslaved: A Visual Story of Modern Day Slavery.” St. Norbert hosted a reception with Catholic Relief Services called “Shine a Light” that used the powerful images on display to present a testimony of the need for change in the area of fair and ethical trade. Featured speaker Caroline Brennan, Senior Communications Officer at Catholic Relief Services, discussed the effects of fair trade programs around the world and how attendees could become involved. She also shared her own story and photographs as a member of the CRS emergency response team to an audience of faculty, students, and members of the local community. At the end of the reception, hundreds of postcards in support of the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act were signed by visitors to the exhibit and reception attendees and given to representatives of Catholic Relief Services to send to Congressional representatives.

St. Norbert College students also run a fair trade business called Discoveries International. Run by international business students, Discoveries International sells fair trade items, such as jewelry, coffee, and tea, donating the profits to charities chosen by the group. For the 2016-2017 academic year, Discoveries International is donating to Feed My Starving Children, The Zambia Project, and Doctors without Borders. This business incorporates support for ethical markets with the teaching of management skills to students who are going to be involved in the international market.

Bring Fair Trade to Your Campus

Colleges and universities can connect with Catholic Relief Services Ethical Trade to help promote fair trade principles on their campus. CRS Ethical Trade provides academic resources that include various modules related specifically to incorporating fair trade and labor issues in the curriculum. In addition, they provide campus engagement materials, ranging from prayers to event ideas, that can help raise awareness on the issue of fair labor practices in the campus community. From their experience working with many campuses on promoting fair trade, CRS Ethical Trade tells success stories of Catholic colleges and universities that used the CRS Student Ambassador program to incorporate educational and faith formation resources into campus life while faculty offer academic modules in courses. In addition to these online resources, CRS staff members are available to present on ethical trade and its importance to the campus community.

Many Catholic universities also work with Fair Trade Campaigns to become a fair trade–certified university through their multi-step process. To start, a campus creates a team to support fair trade, who then reaches out to campus outlets to ensure a minimum of two fair trade products are available in campus-owned and -operated venues. The team works to grow the movement, using fair trade products at university meetings, events, and in university offices, and planning fair trade educational events or celebratory activities. The final step to certification is for the college or university to develop and pass a fair trade resolution. Fair Trade Campaigns has a toolkit available for ideas on how to meet these goals. As of February 2017, 21 Catholic colleges and universities are certified as fair trade institutions. ACCU provides more information on how to become a fair trade university, why Catholic institutions value fair trade, and additional creative ways to incorporate fair trade on campus on its Fair Trade webpage, where visitors can also download the Fair Trade and Catholic Higher Education brochure.

A rising number of Catholic colleges and universities are using their purchasing power as a way of expressing their Catholic mission by supporting the rights of workers to a fair wage and safe working conditions through fair trade items. Carroll College and St. Norbert College are engaging the issue of justice for workers, global solidarity with the poor and vulnerable, and care for creation through a variety of programs and awareness campaigns. By bringing together students through business practices, academic courses, and cultural events, these colleges are showing how fair trade practices in the daily workings of an institution can make a global impact.

Camilla MacKenzie is an undergraduate student at The Catholic University of America and the Peace and Justice Intern at the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

Peace and Justice in ACCU’s Fall Newsletter

ACCU recently released the fall edition of Update, our quarterly newsletter. Read Update in full here. Peace and Justice highlights include:

Global Solidarity Grants Increase Awareness of Catholic Social Teaching at Benedictine University, Cabrini College, Dominican University, St. Norbert’s College, and the University of St. Thomas (TX).

Catholic Colleges Bring Higher Education to the Incarcerated: Saint Francis College, Donnelly College, Holy Cross College, University of Notre Dame, and La Salle University implement programs to bring higher education to those incarcerated.

Spring Hill Alumni Participate in Inaugural Service Trip to Belize where they worked building homes.

Loyola Chicago Students Donate Care Packages to Soldiers serving in Iraq through a partnership with Aramark by using the remaining balance on meal plan to purchase care package materials

Loras Student Wins Interfaith Leadership Award- Recent graduate Samantha Eckrich was awarded the Mike Hammer Interfaith Leadership Award, which recognized her effort in promoting interfaith cooperation on campus.

To subscribe to Update, please email Paula Moore.

Integrating Catholic Social Teaching into Undergraduate Accounting Courses

By Jason Haen

How a Catholic business school (CBS) responds to the call to strengthen its ethics curriculum is a defining moment for a mission-driven institution. A mission-driven CBS can do more than use secular ethics discussions in its classrooms. It must be willing to embrace its Catholic identity. “If a CBS is to take ethics and values seriously in regards to its mission, it seems that a logical place for it to explore would be its own Catholic moral, intellectual, and social tradition.”[1]

All faculty at Catholic colleges have the unique opportunity to use Catholic social teaching (CST) to integrate ethical discussions into their courses. Faculty can embrace this opportunity even in traditionally technically demanding courses such as accounting. While an understanding of debits and credits is the necessary foundation laid by accounting faculty members, this foundation has limited utility beyond the simple bookkeeping aspects of accounting. Accounting faculty must encourage students to consider the usefulness (and shortcomings) of accounting information when making business decisions. Students may be more comfortable making decisions strictly based on the numbers, but they must learn that dollars and cents cannot be the only consideration. CST can guide these discussions.

One aspect of current accounting standards within the United States is its flexibility. While this flexibility or “wiggle room” is important in today’s ever-changing business environment, it also has been part of some of the most noteworthy financial scandals (e.g., the establishment of special purpose entities by Enron). Catholic educators have a responsibility to discuss with students that even though something may be technically correct, this does not mean that it is morally correct. CST can help students gauge the ethical nature of alternatives. These ethical discussions are an essential part of the education provided by a CSB…

Previous articles have suggested ways to integrate CST into accounting courses.[2] This article tries to expand on these ideas by giving specific examples of how CST can guide traditionally numbers-oriented discussion by using CST to analyze the concepts of fixed asset valuation/depreciation, inventory valuation, and the establishment of an amount for the allowance for doubtful accounts…

Discussion Point Example CST Components to Integrate into Discussion
Should a company purchase machinery that requires fewer workers? The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers

Workers have basic rights such as productive work, decent wages, and fair treatment. “(W)ork is not the by-product of production but part of the reason why we create firms in the first place.[3]


We are all one human family.

A company’s decision to downsize workers can detrimentally affect its reputation. This reputation may have taken years to build, but can be quickly tarnished by a rash decision that ignores The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers. A damaged reputation may lower the bottom line by decreasing customer loyalty, making it difficult to recruit new workers when needed, creating animosity during future labor negotiations, and perhaps making the community hesitant to offer concessions (tax breaks) when sought for expansion.

This type of decision can also be made very personal for students and perhaps will help them understand the concepts of The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers and Solidarity. The situation can be introduced in a very numbers-oriented way—the purchase of a piece of machinery for $1,000,000 will allow the company to lay off twenty workers for an overall cost savings of $400,000 annually. Students’ thought processes will immediately turn to how to record the new machinery in the accounting records, so it should be illustrated on the board. When asked about other considerations related to this decision, students may identify issues, such as the need to record depreciation expense in the future; that overall, the payroll expense of the business will go down; or other issues related to the new machinery they have just recorded.

Should (or can) this decision to buy the machinery be reevaluated if the student knows some of the twenty workers being laid off? What if the student’s mother or father is one of the employees that will be laid off? What if one of the laid off workers is the student’s best friend from high school? What if the student is the godparent of this friend’s disabled child? While the example may seem a bit extreme and even evoke laughter from the students at first, it does serve its purpose. Students need to learn how to stop and consider how business decisions affect others, instead of just focusing on the economic ramifications of decisions. The CST component of The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers teaches us that workers have the right to fair treatment, while the component of Solidarity teaches us that we are all one family. When CST is incorporated into these discussions, “justifying downsizing on economic grounds often becomes difficult.”[4]

After students have considered the technically appropriate way to value a fixed asset, the methods available to allocate at least part of these costs to the income statement are discussed. Depreciation is a systematic and rational way to allocate the cost of a fixed asset to the periods that it is expected to benefit the business. Numerous methods are available, but the one most predominantly used is the straight-line method. The calculation is simply total cost, less expected salvage value, divided by total expected useful life of the asset. Students can easily master the calculation, but by emphasizing the various decision points, faculty can help students understand how the CST components can fit into the calculation…


[1] Michael Naughton et al., “Business Education at Catholic Universities: An Exploration of the Role of Mission-Driven Business Schools,” Background Paper for the Seventh International Conference on Catholic Social Thought and Management Education (2008): 8, accessed June 27, 2011,

[2] Two good examples are Joan Van Hise and John P. Koeplin, “Integrating Mission-based Values into Accounting Curriculum: Catholic Social Teaching and Introductory Accounting,” Journal of Catholic Higher Education 29, no. 2 (2010): 155-171, and Anthony Zordan, “Integrating Catholic Social Teaching in the Accounting Curriculum,” accessed June 27, 2011,

[3] Andrew V. Abela, “Profit and More: Catholic Social Teaching and the Purpose of the Firm,” Journal of Business Ethics 31, (2001): 112.

[4] Van Hise and Koeplin, “Integrating Mission-based Values,” 163.


Jason Haen is Instructor of Accounting in the Business Administration Department at St. Norbert College.

 This piece is an excerpt of an article originally published in the Journal of Catholic Higher Education vol. 32, no. 1.  To read the full article, please visit the JCHE site.